Purpose of review
This article draws upon articles published since 2009 to identify research evidence about the psychosocial aspects of children and young people's responses to their exposure to war, collective violence and terrorism.
Recent research describes children's distress and the disorders they may develop consequent on their direct and indirect exposure to war. This article covers general responses as well as those that affect refugees, displaced children, and child soldiers. Dose of exposure is the main predictor of their degree of distress. Often, loss of parental support predicts distress or disorder. Research on children who are refugees and internally displaced persons has found that they cope better with the distressing events surrounding their flight if their parents accompany them. Studies of child soldiers show that they suffer from guilt as well as experiencing many violent distressing events. Research has identified the factors that contribute to their resilience, which include their acceptance by the communities to which they return. There are personal and social sources of resilience, including emotion regulation, parenting, and social support, for children who are exposed to war.
Much of the recent research confirms earlier findings, which demonstrate that their exposure to war and collective violence leads to distress for many children and/or mental disorders for a smaller but substantial minority of them. The literature shows interest in identifying and measuring protective factors. The emphasis in the articles we reviewed on social as well as personal factors that confer psychosocial resilience reflects the broad interest in the two canons of literature on children's development and disasters. The findings point powerfully to people's needs for holistic and community-level interventions.